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Dear Pastor’s Wife: Unlikely Waves of Goodness

I just finished leading our third annual pastors’ wives retreat in western NC. It’s always a week of sweet community among fellow pastors’ wives that is truly blessed by God in so many abundant ways. While I would love to detail many of the things we watched God do during the planning year and at the actual retreat, most of those stories are meant to stay in my heart and in my journal to be pondered privately- along with your stories (for those of you who attended.)

I have in previous years hit the ground running after the retreat, because life is like that. But this year I did something different after hearing on a podcast that a writer/speaker I enjoy plans a retreat for herself after each retreat she serves to others. I determined to do that this year, in effort to take the quiet time needed to reflect on and not forget “all His benefits” through journaling, and to be able to recharge my depleted energies through reading and prayer.

And so it was that, thanks to my kind husband, I found myself at a tiny, cozy condo in off season Myrtle Beach, not too far from our home. My husband is “all in” with our ministry to you all, and is also “all in” when it comes to my personal wellbeing. I guess it goes without saying that he also took on the homeschooling and held down the fort at home in many ways, along with his own responsibilities. {Thank you, dear man of mine!}

Being near the ocean always sends me into a contemplative place, and this time was no different. With the background noise of crashing waves, I journaled through Psalm 23, specifically in the context of the retreat I had just finished leading. Many phrases jumped out to me and became even more precious as I reflected on the involvement of my Shepherd all through the year in this endeavor. I lingered long when I came to “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” noting with astounded awe how that phrase is true in so many ways in my life. It’s not that it hasn’t been true all along- it’s just that my spiritual eyes are more and more awake to and aware of His goodness as the months and years go by.

And when I speak of goodness, I’m not in this context referring to the daily loading of benefits which our gracious God lavishes on me. I’ve long been aware of those and I hope I always will strive to be faithful to grateful praise…but for me the difficulty was looking at the timeline of my life from a sky view, and seeing the goodness of God in my story as a whole, and fitting all of the “what was that even about?” moments into His purpose. It’s one thing to say that we believe that God brings good out of our suffering, and to say that the deepest sufferings become a well of hope for others to draw from.

It’s an entirely different thing to SEE that happening in your life. To come out on the other side of intense years of suffering, and to see God actively weaving your story to include those broken pieces- which now look more like cracks filled with a refined gold from the fire- is quite a different thing. {Of course God has no obligation to manifest His reasons for our suffering or even to give us a glimpse of why He does anything in our lives. So it is a special grace when He does this, especially knowing that what we do see or make sense of is only a tiny fraction of His ways.}

As I walked on the beach this particular time, the air hung with the ironic scented twist of cinnamon and salt by turns. It’s a quiet beach in the fall and winter, void of the delightful squeals of children and dozing parents under umbrellas. The beach is lightly scattered with walking people with wind breakers and ear muffs. It’s a walk of determination and purpose, because of the stiff wind and because we must walk in sand with shoes on, which is profoundly more difficult than walking on sand with bare feet. And because we all had said shoes on, we were walking on wet sand. It’s the firmest ground out there, so there we were, all huddled near the shoreline. It feels much like life on the edge, because the waves are unpredictable and the tide is busy with change.

As I walked, deep in thoughts coming and going as prayer with my Shepherd, a wave piled high with white foam met the shore in front of me, circled around, and flowed straight toward me. I instinctively jumped aside into sinking sand, not wanting to get my shoes or jeans wet.

My next thought was about how fun those same waves are for our family in the summertime. We meet them with abandon, running our bare feet toward them as they careen toward us; and then we ride them into shore on our body boards, high on exhilaration. What causes so much family delight in the summer is foreboding, cold, and uncomfortable in the fall and winter.

And yet….it’s those waves of sorrow in the winter of life that bring us the most good as God works out His glory-filled purposes in us for personal good, and through us for the good of others. The word “follow” in Psalm 23 carries the meaning of chasing after, haunting, always there when I turn around, never stopping pursuit of. We go through seasons in life that feel that way in the negative sense- we barely have time to catch our breath before something else hard is upon us.

Yet….this is the goodness that is chasing us down, breathless to work in us God’s perfect will for our story which He is writing. It’s the goodness masked by sorrow and pain. It’s the wave that threatens to take us under. It’s the thing too big for us to handle. It’s the embodiment of redemption-  the “making all things new” that God is always busy about in our lives.

Oh that we could always see through eyes of faith…to kiss the wave of sorrow that is bringing a new birth of goodness into our reality…all the days of our lives.

XOXO,

A Kindred Spirit